The 2017 NBA Playoffs Conference Semifinals are in the Books. It took over two weeks for the Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards to decide who was going to play the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals. Boston and Washington finished their seventh game on May 15. It ended the way that many basketball fans expected it to end. The reason it ended the way it did is what’s surprising.
In the NBA Western Conference Finals, the San Antonio Spurs are already in a 0 to 1 hole versus the 1-seed Golden State Warriors with Game 2 scheduled for Tuesday, May 16. The Spurs stepped it up big time in the Western Conference Semifinals after falling into a 0 to 1 hole versus Houston.
Check out how both Boston and San Antonio punched their tickets to the NBA Conference Finals.
2017 NBA Playoffs Conference Semifinals Recap
NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals
** Records and stats as of May 15
1 Boston Celtics (4-3) vs 4 Washington Wizards (3-4)
Game 1: Boston 123 vs Washington 111
Game 2: Boston 129 vs Washington 119 (OT)
Game 3: Washington 116 vs Boston 89
Game 4: Washington 121 vs Boston 102
Game 5: Boston 123 vs Washington 101
Game 6: Washington 92 vs Boston 91
Game 7: Boston 115 vs Washington 105
Analysis: This was a classic series where the home team protected its hard court in each one of the games. Boston looked unstoppable in Game 1 when they held John Wall to only 20 points while allowing the great D.C. point-guard to dish 16 assists.
Wall got Washington back on track in Game 2. Although the Celtic ended up covering the -5 spread, it took overtime for them to do it. Washington appeared on the cusp of a Game 2 upset, but Boston held firm in overtime.
Game 2 turned out to be the turning point of the series. If Washington had beaten Boston in Game 2, there’s no telling what may have happened. The Wizards would go on to win Game 3 116 to 89 and Game 4 121 to 102.
In Game 3, Washington dominated the Celtics shooters. Boston shot only 35.1% from the field in Game 3. They were only good for 31.2% from three in Game 3. Game 4 saw Boston shoot a much better 44.3% from the field and 45.2% from three, but the Celtics allowed Washington to shoot a much better 52.4% from the field.
The key Game 5 went to the Boston Celtics. Boston made the necessary adjustments on the defensive end to shut down Washington’s offense. The Boston D held Wall to only 21 points. More importantly? Wall was only good for 4 assists. The Wizards shot an abysmal 38.5% from the field. They shot a horrific 24.1% from three.
Wall provided the last laugh in Game 6 when he buried a 3-point shot with 3.5 seconds left on the clock to secure a 92 to 91 Washington Wizards win. But, again, the Wizards were held to less than 30% from three. This time, Boston’s defense kept Washington to 20.8% from three.
Game 7 is where the fireworks happened. Going into the final game of the series, many believed that it would come down to the play of the respective teams’ guards. In Game 6, the Celtics’ Avery Bradley had scored 27. Star Boston point-guard Isaiah Thomas had also scored 27.
Wall had gone for 26 and 8 assists while Bradley Beal had scored 33. Game 7 was going to be a guard’s game. Whichever back court mates got the job done was going to be the story of this Game 7. How could it not be, right?
Washington had their chances. The Wizards held a 5-point lead with around 5:40 left in the third quarter. But, Boston outscored Washington 21 to 9 over the remainder of the period. Still, it took a gargantuan effort from bench player forward Kelly Olynyk for Boston to secure the win in the fourth quarter.
Olynyk was absolutely sensational to start the fourth. Overall, he scored 26 points. He scored 14 of those in the first 8:34 of quarter four. He was 10 of 14 from the field. He also went 2 of 6 from three.
Yes, Isaiah Thomas had a brilliant game. Boston’s star was hot from behind the arc, making 3 out of 5. But, no other Celtic, save for Olynyk, scored more than 15 points. Avery Bradley, who appeared unstoppable in Game 6, only scored 9.
It took Olynyk’s Herculean effort to put the Celtics into the NBA Eastern Conference Finals versus LeBron, Kyrie, and K-Love. Isaiah said it best, “Kelly was MVP tonight. He did it all.”
NBA Western Conference Semifinals
** Records and stats as of May 15
2 San Antonio Spurs vs 3 Houston Rockets
Game 1: Houston 126 vs San Antonio 99
Game 2: San Antonio 121 vs Houston 96
Game 3: San Antonio 103 at Houston 92
Game 4: Houston 125 vs San Antonio 104
Game 5: San Antonio 110 vs Houston 107 (OT)
Game 6: San Antonio 114 at Houston 75
Analysis: After Game 1, many NBA fans were ready to put a fork into the San Antonio Spurs. But, what happened in Game 1 turned out to be an anomaly. There was no way that Houston was going to be as hot from three during the entire series as they were in the first three quarters of Game 1 against the Spurs. How awesome was James “The Beard” Harden and the rest of the Rockets during those first three quarters? Houston outscored San Antonio 77 to 44.
But, it turned out that the Rockets Game 1 performance wasn’t what NBA fans should have expected. Houston would never truly duplicate their performance from Game 1.
Game 2 was more of a true indication of how the series would go than Houston’s barrage of three-point shots in Game 1. In Game 2, the Spurs held the Rockets to 32.4% from three and 44.6% from the field. Houston only made 11 of 34 three-point shots.
Game 3 in Houston showed that Mike Dantoni wasn’t sure what adjustments to make because Dantoni’s squad only shot 30.8% from three even though the Rockets played in front of their home fans. Harden scored 43 points. Nobody gave James any help. What’s crazy is that Dantoni didn’t play Bobby Brown, Sam Dekker, Montrezl Harrell, Troy Williams, or Kyle Wiltjer a single minute. The Spurs come at you in bunches. What was Dantoni thinking? Maybe, he wasn’t.
The Rockets imposed their scoring will in Game 4. San Antonio’s defense, after playing so well in 2 straight games, took a step back. Houston shot 52.6% from the field. They made 50 of 95 shots. The Rockets took 43 three-point shots. That’s just crazy. They made 19 of 43 from behind the arc. More importantly, and one of the reasons that I liked the Rockets after the Game 4 win is that Houston produced 6 players that scored in double-figures.
The series was Houston’s to lose…which they subsequently did
The Rockets had the Spurs on the ropes in Game 5. San Antonio was down 60 to 58 at halftime. Houston outscored San Antonio 16 to 15 in the fourth to tie the game and send it into overtime. But, The Beard didn’t score a single point in the fourth quarter. Not a single point. The Spurs outscored the Rockets 9 to 6 in OT.
That forced a Game 6 back in Houston. Surely, as -9 point favorites versus a Kawhi Leonard less San Antonio team, Houston on their home court would prevail? There’s no way that without Kawhi, with Jonathan Simmons starting in his place, that San Antonio could possibly upset the Rockets, right?
If James Harden never wins an NBA Championship, basketball historians will look back to this Game 6 of the Western Conference Semifinals between Houston and San Antonio. There’s just no way to describe how badly the Rockets played in this game. The worst player in the game was The Beard.
Mike Dantoni gave Harden an excuse afterwards by saying that he’s going to rest Harden “more next season”. The excuse is that Harden played much too fast in the earlier games during the series. I don’t think so. That’s not an excuse to me. Get your B12 shots. My wife does it once a month to keep her energy up while she runs her gallery.
Being tired isn’t an excuse in an NBA playoff game. How bad was Harden? He scored only 10 points, and dished only 7 assists. But, that’s not all. He also committed 6 turnovers. The Beard also slowed down the game. Houston only took 77 shots from the field after averaging 90 from the field in the other games during the series.
Oh, the Spurs were awesome in this battle. Jonathan Simmons stepped it up big time with 18 points and 4 assists. The Spurs dominated the interior. Pau Gasol scored 10 points and grabbed 11 boards. Pau also blocked 3 shots. LaMarcus Aldridge, aware that it was up to him to get it done with Kawhi on the bench, produced 34 points and 12 boards.
The Spurs played great. But, the real reason that Houston lost this game is because James Harden, maybe because he was tired, slowed down the game versus San Antonio. You can’t beat San Antonio playing slow. You can barely beat them playing fast. But, playing slow is putting the nails in your own coffin.
San Antonio moves on to the Western Conference finals from here. From a basketball point-of-view, I’m not sure where the Rockets go from here.